Carrots and their friends, and nasty relations

thegardener's picture
parsely & carrots
herbs, potted
november rose
sweet cecily

Carrots are survivors: in this November they are still growing and tasty. Yes, I know this is the longest fall we have had for years, but in other years carrots have been harvested at this time. The recent popularity of non-orange carrots is a reminder that centuries ago, carrots in Europe and Asia had various colours and an assumption is that purple carrots came from around Afghanistan. This family of plants (I like the term umbels as it recognizes the shape of the flowers) is still green and attractive in our gardens: I love the smell of sweet cicely, parsley, cilantro and lovage; although at this time the five foot high lovage seen in late summer has succumbed to frost.

Botanically the family is known as Apiaceae or Umbelliferae: some plants in this group are grown here simply as decorative additions to the garden. However, in some parts of Canada, including the west coast, there is the invasive and dangerous species, giant hogweed, which must not be touched as the sap causes phytophotodermatitis in humans, resulting in blisters and long-lasting scars. The USDA Forest Service states pigs and cattle can eat it without apparent harm, but I would not want any other animal to be exposed to it. For a lacy, fern-like plant in Scarboro we can use sweet cicely, a bright light green plant, or cow parsley (which also goes by the name “Queen Anne’s lace”): the latter comes in a variety, Anthriscus sylvestris ‘Ravenswing’ which has unusually dark brown foliage, but both self-seed – which can be good or bad. Another umbel that is becoming popular is astrantia which comes in several colours, including a dark red form. Some forms of angelica will also survive our climate.

And now to pick the last of my carrots - and bring in some parsley. But just before that I must admire a neighbour’s hardy Campfire rose, one of the Canadian artists’ series, still in bloom (see photo in digital version).